Inspiration · Leadership

Nobody saw that coming

The pain and shock we experience from the worst mass-shooting in the United States is the most extreme we have ever felt. Until the next time.

We reel at how disruptive innovation is transforming our industries. Surely, we tell ourselves, the pace will slow. Yet it doesn’t.

We are amazed by the magnitude of the devastation caused by a “natural” disaster. But then the one that follows is even worse.

We are surprised when people rise up to fight against decades of systemic inequity and oppression. Haven’t we transcended to a post-racial world?

Faced with escalating and challenging situations we often tell ourselves that “nobody saw that coming” or that there was just no way to prevent this.

Of course, when we say “nobody saw that coming” most of the time what we mean is “I didn’t see it.”

And that’s because we weren’t looking.

We ignored the facts. We denied an uncomfortable reality. We were afraid to confront our fear. We lost energy when it go too hard. We decided it was someone else’s job. Spoiler alert: it’s not.

Hope isn’t a strategy. It’s not even a decent tactic.

Lying to ourselves isn’t helping. In fact, it’s making it worse.

The truth is there if we are willing to see. And much of what is happening is completely predictable.

If we really desire a different outcome, we’re going to have to do different things. The hard and uncomfortable things.

And go to the places that scare us.

 

Inspiration · Leadership

On building trust

Hemingway said that “the best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

That doesn’t mean you give the car keys to a 12 year old, let a drunk pilot fly the plane or promote an incompetent person to a position where their predictable mistakes could do great damage.

But it does mean that when we are dealing with a functional adult we often need to get out of the way of their responsible risk taking and allow them the space for their growth. We need to give them a chance, observe what happens and decide if it works for us. And we have to get comfortable with the reality that it might not.

Ultimately, deep, real and enduring trust is earned,

Trust requires consistency.

Trust builds over time.

Trust creates connection.

Yet if our fear or desire for control prevents us from giving another person the opportunity they need to explore, mature and, yes, make some mistakes, we’ll never get to see who they really are.

The hard part is that trust demands vulnerability and a willingness to let go out the outcome.

If the relationship is important enough it’s always worth it.

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Inspiration · Leadership

Eventually we’ll see it (or maybe not)

How many times have you witnessed (either as an observer or employee) organizations embark on a path that almost certainly will end in disaster, yet they forge ahead anyway? How can they be so wrong-headed we wonder?

How often have you watched as a friend or loved one engaged in seemingly destructive behavior, but the one involved in the situation seems blissfully unaware? Why is it that they can’t see it as clearly as we do?

Undoubtedly, there are situations where the bullet’s already been fired, it’s simply that the full impact is yet to be felt.

Other times, when we feel certain we know the inevitable outcome, the truth is we have no idea what’s going to happen but we manage our fear by gripping ever more firmly to the steering wheel.

Frequently, at least in my own personal experience, we’re more worried about what’s going on externally that we avoid focusing on what is ours to own.

It turns out, over time, the truth is undefeated. And as Pema Chodron reminds us, “fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.”

We can hope that the groups or individuals we care about will come to see it our way. And it’s simple: they will or they won’t. Or maybe we will come to see things differently. And there too, either we will or we won’t.

The only thing we can do to improve the odds of getting to the right actions is to become aware of our truth and the work that is ours to do–and then go do it.

Let go of everything else.

 

 

Inspiration · Leadership

Mistakes oft repeated

Paolo Coelho suggests “a mistake repeated more than once is a decision.” And he’s definitely on to something.

Of course, sometimes mistakes are an intentional part of our path toward learning, innovation, growth. That’s called experimentation–and if failure is not an option then neither is success.

On the other hand, when we repeat destructive–or just plain foolish–behaviors, it’s often our unconscious habits taking over. The key here is mindful awareness and realizing that our fear doesn’t have to rule the roost. We always have a choice.

I like what Portia Nelson has to say about this in her “Autobiography In Five Short Chapters”

Chapter One

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I fall in.

I am lost . . . I am helpless.

It isn’t my fault . . .

It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I pretend I don’t see it.

I fall in again.

I can’t believe I am in this same place.

But it isn’t my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I see it there.

I still fall . . . it’s a habit . . . but,

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.

I walk around it.

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.

Being Remarkable · Inspiration · Leadership

“We’ve read enough books”

Last week in a private speech to congressional interns, presidential son-in-law (and, given his wide-ranging set of responsibilities, apparent superhuman) Jared Kushner was asked how he will fix the Israeli-Palestinian conflict despite decades of failures on the part of experienced diplomats.

His answer? “We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books.”

To which I say, “Uh, no you haven’t” and “who cares?”

Perhaps you’ve seen the New Yorker magazine cartoon that depicts a man standing before two doors, seemingly confused about which to go through. One door is labeled “Heaven” and the other is labeled “Books About Heaven.”

And while the religious example may not resonate with everyone, the metaphor is apt, our choices are clear. Knowledge is necessary. Doing is what counts.

Read the book. Or have the actual experience.

Stay in the stands, rendering judgment. Or be the person in the arena.

On the shore. Or in the boat.

Gathering knowledge. Or doing the work.

 

Being Remarkable · Inspiration · Leadership

Nobody should care how much golf we play

Or how many cakes we bake, how much TV we watch, how often we go to the gym or whatever happens to floats our boats or simply pass the time, so long as…

…we honor our most important commitments…

…our words match out actions…

…we take responsibility for our stuff and stay on our side of the street…

…we act instead of complain…

…we are in the arena, instead of watching and judging from the stands.

It turns out individuals, organizations and brands get cut a fair amount of slack and earn many degrees of freedom when they do the work, eschew hypocrisy and can be trusted to show up when it counts the most.

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Inspiration · Leadership · Uncategorized

Lasting peach

The Trump administration’s issues with spelling are “unpresidented.” Here’s a brief history, which doesn’t even include yesterday’s announcement of “John” Huntsman as the new ambassador to Russia.

To be sure, Trump’s problems with spelling and diction are hardly the scariest things about his Presidency.  But any important relationship is built on trust. And sometimes it’s the little things that give us away.

Imagine boarding a plane and as you pass by the cockpit you notice candy wrappers strewn about the floor and that the captain has his shirt untucked and shoelaces untied.

Imagine you are doing some financial planning and your advisor has gotten the time of your appointment wrong the last three times you were scheduled to meet.

Imagine you are being prepped for surgery and the anesthesiologist keeps forgetting your name and can’t seem to remember where she left her glasses.

It’s all too easy to get distracted by small, unimportant stuff. And our obsession with perfectionism often does more harm than good. But some behaviors are small, yet meaningful clues to issues that demand our concern.

As long as we’re dealing with humans, mistakes will be made. We need to let most of that you-know-what go and strive to be compassionate to ourselves and others when the inevitable happens.

Yet a consistent pattern of general carelessness or wanton disregard for others can be another matter entirely and we shouldn’t take such an accommodating stance.

Ultimately learning to discern the types of mistakes to actually worry about is where we should put out attention.

I hope we all can make peach with that.

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration · Leadership

The real enemy is delusion

If you are anything like me, you may feel attacked from time to time.

In those moments our enemy is the “idiot” that cut us off on the highway, the boss that doesn’t appreciate us enough, the guy we think is flirting with our girlfriend or maybe just the overall raw deal we think life has irritatingly bestowed upon us.

If we get to play on a bigger stage, perhaps we feel pilloried by our political opponents or the media.

If we work in a struggling organization, maybe we feel slighted by “unfair” legislation or competition that we think gets to play by different rules.

Real victimization does exist, of course. And those cases can be appalling, tragic and deserving of outrage and harsh consequences.

Yet we should be careful to distinguish between substantive and real attacks and those that we make up in our heads in an attempt to protect our egos or to distract us from the real, often challenging, work at hand.

When I blame others for my own struggles I am often avoiding uncomfortable truths about myself.

When the politician spends much of his time lashing out at others, he ignores the reality of his own accountability and power.

While it is convenient for the retail CEO to blame Amazon for her company’s woes, the company’s lack of innovation under her leadership is probably the real culprit.

Much of the time the truth is there if we are willing to look for it. And when we are willing to accept it and act on it, progress can be made.

Ultimately it serves precisely no one for us to fight battles over trivial stuff, particularly if they are with the wrong person. And a fight with reality has no winners.

To paraphrase Ajahn Chah, most of the time our real enemy is delusion.

h/t to Jack Kornfield

Being Remarkable · Innovation · Inspiration · Leadership

The next hill

How many times have we said that we want innovation, change, growth, maybe even a revolution?

Sometimes we express these hopes and desires for our organization or society writ large. Sometimes our intention is directed squarely at ourselves. Whatever the case, too often we talk a good game but actually do very little.

Fear is one problem. Anything truly worth doing involves risks. And putting ourselves out there, sharing our ideas, committing to make a real difference, doing the hard, uncomfortable work, can be scary. Of course much of this is pure imagination. As Mark Twain reminds us: “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

The other problem is we greatly overestimate our ability to understand the future. And too often we think that our actions will lead to an easily predictable outcome. Too often we believe that with enough planning and analysis we can control the way forward. Too often without a clear view of all the steps to success we don’t even take the first one. Our illusion of control and our flawed gift of prophecy all contribute to our stuck-ness.

Having a precise map for our next road trip is a solid idea. But being attached to that notion for journeys of innovation and profound change is worthless. The way forward for personal and organizational transformation is fraught with twists and turns, ebbs and flows, peaks and valleys. The moment we believe that before we can begin we need to be able to see our way clear to the end is the moment paralysis starts to set in.

Along our path, personal or otherwise, we will be climbing a series of hills. When we reach the top of each hill more will be revealed. What we couldn’t see from the base will now lay before us. We will have the lessons from our trek. We will have a clearer view of the landscape ahead. We will have the confidence gained from having successfully completed our hike.

It’s only complicated if we make it so.

Get pointed in the right direction.

Start moving.

Just make it to the next hill.

Recalibrate.

Rinse and repeat.

Being Remarkable · Leadership · Loyalty Marketing

Demanding loyalty

It seems rather natural to want loyalty. Maybe sometimes we even crave it or desperately feel as if we need it. From our employees. From our customers. From our friends or partner.

But as the boss, we shouldn’t think we have loyalty when conformance with our agenda–or praise from a parade of sycophants–is engendered out of fear of humiliation or termination.

As brand leaders, we shouldn’t claim we have loyal customers when the primary reason they buy our product is because we bribe them with endless discounts.

As someone in a personal relationship, we might deservedly expect loyalty, but if we only feel it exists when we threaten negative consequences we are merely kidding ourselves.

Loyalty is an emotion. And when deeply felt it can lead to our getting what we desire.

Loyalty is earned. Over time, through remarkable, relevant and consistent actions that build trust.

Demand loyalty all you want. If you aren’t getting it, don’t waste your time blaming your employees, customers or loved ones.

Our work is to get real, get accountable, and yes, get vulnerable. Loyalty is available to those that do the work and earn it.